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Lucy the Elephant gets a shower from Margate firefighters to check for leaks in $2 million new skin

The dousing was designed to find leaks in a $2 million replacement of Margate's beloved roadside attraction's metal skin.

Lucy the Elephant, the six-story historic landmark, in Margate, N.J., gets a shower from the Margate City Fire Department, to check for leaks on the exterior of the attraction that is undergoing a restoration.
Lucy the Elephant, the six-story historic landmark, in Margate, N.J., gets a shower from the Margate City Fire Department, to check for leaks on the exterior of the attraction that is undergoing a restoration.Read moreVERNON OGRODNEK

MARGATE, N.J. — It was a bit on the cold side for a pre-reveal cleanse, but Lucy the Elephant has endured worse. And maybe an icy dousing from Margate Fire Department hoses was just the spa treatment the old pachyderm starlet with a brand new $2 million metal skin needed.

The purpose was to find any leaks in Lucy’s expensive new skin.

As firefighters aimed their hose at Lucy, whose plastic wrapping had finally been removed after 14 months, John Green Jr. of A.C. Gentry architectural sheet metal company climbed around the remaining scaffolding and inside the six-story elephant checking for leaks.

And indeed, the dousing Monday morning did reveal leaks in the skylights under the distinctive howdah at the top of Margate’s beloved roadside attraction, which executive director Rich Helfant, armed with a walkie-talkie and a Save Lucy jacket, said would not be a deterrent to the full interior renovation that will take place after next summer.

Volunteers with squeegees and mops sopped up the water underneath the skylight, after the hosing revealed that some seals in the skylight had leaked water into the historic structure, which began life in 1881. Then known as the Elephant Bazaar, it was designed to attract tourists and promote real estate. Lucy was named to the National Park Registry of Historical Landmarks in 1976.

Lucy will have a full reveal sometime in mid-December, when the scaffolding is scheduled to come down.

The mission also served as a training drill for newer firefighters, simulating defensive firefighting, which is fighting fires from the outside of a building, said Margate Fire Chief Daniel Adams.

“It’s a historic figure, and we’d never want to see Lucy burn or catch fire,” Adams said, standing along the Adams Avenue side of Lucy, where a wind headed toward the ocean sent the spray over Lucy’s trunk and eyes. “The good news is Lucy has built-in fire suppression systems, an alarm system, as well as a sprinkler system,” he said.

In the meantime, Helfant is hoping a benefit concert starring Deanna Martin, the daughter of Dean Martin, on Dec. 11 at Resorts Hotel & Casino will help fill the remaining fund-raising gap for Lucy’s renovation. Joining her is Steven Maglio, a Sinatra-style singer.

The Superstar Theater at Resorts is where Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra last performed in Atlantic City in the 1980s. Tickets range from a $35 general admission to $900 for a VIP banquette that seats six and a meet and greet.

Helfant was also able to raise about $120,000 through asking people to become Lucy “Life Preservers” and donate $1,000 each, but he is hoping to raise the $800,000 still needed.

Spectators gathered to watch the show, including Lucy super fan Michael Hill, 5.

“They want to give her a bath,” said Michael, who was wearing an image of Lucy on a T-shirt. His mom, Rachel Downey, said they had noticed the crescent moon and star matched the old image. Michael has never seen Lucy out of her plastic sheeting.

At one point, the Save Lucy Committee had to issue an apology after some objections to their fund-raising campaign, which used the phrase “Never again, Never forget.”

While “Never forget,” is a familiar elephant-associated phrase, the Philly-based Sons and Daughters of Holocaust Survivors objected to the use of the phrase, “Never forget, never again,” as “tone deaf” as it is long associated with the Holocaust.

Photographer Vernon Ogrodnek contributed to this article.